Where Have I Been?

Well, I would like to say that I have been on a beach with a pina colada in my hand but the reality is that I have been in the middle of a novel, waist deep without a grass skirt in sight. Novel writing is not like a short story writing. Sorry, for stating the bloody obvious to any novelists out there but we all know that those new to fiction often come via the short story and unlike the short story, the novel territory is a journey that at first seems simple but in the end feels like you’re caught somewhere in a rain forest with the sound of approaching feet in the undergrowth, and they’re not friendly feet either. Take your pick from indigenous people with spears or guns, to loggers with chainsaws or guns, or tigers with guns. The novel throws up the unexpected and I am grateful to have Conrad Williams there to guide me on my way and ask questions that make me realise that I should punch myself in a locked cupboard somewhere for being such an idiot. Sometimes the obvious is only obvious when someone else points it out and suddenly there’s no trees but a lot of annoyed characters asking, ‘Why the hell did you do that?’

The writer will often reply, ‘Well, it seemed a good idea at the time.’ Then all the novel falls on you from a great height and you realise that it isn’t an edit job but a rewrite job, and you best do it before they release all 100,000+ word tigers on you. That’s novel writing, like having a conversation with a tiger in a jungle with blow darts, chainsaws and guns ready to leap in unless you get the answer right. That means you often run down dead end paths, thrashing away in the undergrowth being bitten by spiders and snakes, sometimes you have to cut across to another path and then forget the way you came and call out for help only for you to hear the snarl of a tiger. So, that’s the answer, I have been running from a tiger whilst shouting over my shoulder, ‘Can we just talk?’


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